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Year : 2010  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 7  |  Page : 58-61 Table of Contents     

Euphorbia hirta: Its chemistry, traditional and medicinal uses, and pharmacological activities

Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra-136 119, Haryana, India

Date of Submission10-Mar-2010
Date of Decision16-Apr-2010
Date of Web Publication10-Jul-2010

Correspondence Address:
Sunil Kumar
Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra-136 119, Haryana
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0973-7847.65327

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The oldest remedies known to mankind are herbal medicines. India is known worldwide for its Ayurvedic treatment. Euphorbia hirta is often used traditionally for female disorders, respiratory ailments (cough, coryza, bronchitis, and asthma), worm infestations in children, dysentery, jaundice, pimples, gonorrhea, digestive problems, and tumors. It is reported to contain alkanes, triterpenes, phytosterols, tannins, polyphenols, and flavanoids. This review describes the medicinal properties, chemical constituents, and other important aspects of Euphorbia hirta.

Keywords: Antioxidant, antimalarial, antibacterial, euphorbia hirta

How to cite this article:
Kumar S, Malhotra R, Kumar D. Euphorbia hirta: Its chemistry, traditional and medicinal uses, and pharmacological activities. Phcog Rev 2010;4:58-61

How to cite this URL:
Kumar S, Malhotra R, Kumar D. Euphorbia hirta: Its chemistry, traditional and medicinal uses, and pharmacological activities. Phcog Rev [serial online] 2010 [cited 2019 Aug 19];4:58-61. Available from: http://www.phcogrev.com/text.asp?2010/4/7/58/65327

  Introduction Top

In India use of the different parts of several medicinal plants to cure specific ailments has been in vogue from ancient times. The indigenous system of medicine, namely, Ayurvedic, Siddha, and Unani, has been in existence for several centuries. Some drugs from Ayurveda approaches modern diseases, have already reached the market place. [1] In modern medicines, plants occupy a very important place as the raw material for some important drugs. Synthetic drugs are effective in controlling different diseases but these synthetic drugs are out of reach of millions of people. It is estimated that around 70,000 plant species have been used for medicinal purposes. The herbs provide the starting material for the synthesis of conventional drugs. Medicinal plants have curative actions due to the presence of complex chemical constituents. India recognizes more than 2500 plant species having medicinal value, Sri Lanka around 1400, and Nepal around 700. [2] This review intends to provide an overview of the chemical constituents and pharmacological actions of Euphorbia hirta.

  General Information Top

The largest genus of family Euphorbiaceae is Euphorbia with about 1600 species. It is characterized by the presence of white milky latex which is more or less toxic. Latices of E. ingens, E. mey, E. tirucalli, and E. triangularis are possible sources of rubber. [3] This group of plants has been a subject of intense phytochemical examination and isolated compounds which include:- flavanoids, triterpenoids, alkanes, amino acids, and alkaloids. [1] E. ipecacuanha is known as wild ipecac; E. antiquorum is known as Tridhara; E. lathyrus is known as caper spurge; and E. thymifolia is known as Laghududhika. [2]

There are many other species of Euphorbia which are used in traditional medicines. All species of Euphorbia exudes a milky juice when broken, which is more or less poisonous and used as an ingredient in arrow poisons. E. hirta possesses antibacterial, anthelmintic, antiasthmatic, sedative, antispasmodic, antifertility, antifungal, and antimalarial properties. [1]


E. hirta is distributed throughout the hotter parts of India and Australia, often found in waste places along the roadsides. [6]

Plant Description

E. hirta Linn. Syn; E. pilulifera Linn. Chamaesyce pilulifera Linn. [5]

Family: Euphorbiaceae

Vernacular Names

Awuna Akinkodze

Bengal Barokhervi

English Pill---bearing spurge, asthma herb, snakeweed

Gujarat Dudeli

Hindi Dudhi

Indonesia Daun biji kacang, patikan kebo

Malayalam Nelapalai

Malaysia Ambin janyan, kelusan, keremak susu

Marathi Dudnali, govardhan

Orissa Jhotikhuntian

Sanskrit Amampatchairaisi, barokheruie, dugadhika

Tamil Amumpatchaiyarissi

Telagu Reddinanabrolu, bidarie, nanabala, nanabiyan

Visayan Bovi, buyayava [1],[2],[3],[4]

  Morphology Top

E. hirta belongs to the plant family Euphorbiaceae and genus Euphorbia. It is a slender- stemmed, annual hairy plant with many branches from the base to top, spreading upto 40 cm in height, reddish or purplish in color. Leaves are opposite, elliptic - oblong to oblong- lanceolate, acute or subacute, dark green above, pale beneath, 1- 2.5 cm long, blotched with purple in the middle, and toothed at the edge. The fruits are yellow, three- celled, hairy, keeled capsules, 1-2 mm in diameter, containing three brown, four-sided, angular, wrinkled seeds. [1],[2],[3],[4]

  Ethnopharmacology Top

E. hirta is used in the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders (diarrhea, dysentery, intestinal parasitosis, etc.), bronchial and respiratory diseases (asthma, bronchitis, hay fever, etc.), and in conjunctivitis. Hypotensive and tonic properties are also reported in E. hirta. The aqueous extract exhibits anxiolytic, analgesic, antipyretic, and anti-inflammatory activities. The stem sap is used in the treatment of eyelid styes and a leaf poultice is used on swelling and boils. [3]

Extracts of E. hirta have been found to show anticancer activity. The aqueous extract of the herb strongly reduced the release of prostaglandins I 2, E 2, and, D 2 [3] The aqueous extract also inhibits aflatoxin contamination in rice, wheat, maize, and mustard crops. [7] Methanolic extract of leaves have antifungal and antibacterial activities. The leaves pounded with turmeric and coconut oil are warmed and rubbed on itchy soles. The latex of E. hirta is applied on lower eyelids, like surma to cure eye sores. The root exudate exhibits nematicidal activity against juveniles of meloidogyne incognita. [3]

Decoction of dry herbs is used for skin diseases. Decoction of fresh herbs is used as gargle for the treatment of thrush. Root decoction is also beneficial for nursing mothers deficient in milk. Roots are also used for snake bites. [1] The polyphenolic extract of E. hirta has antiamoebic [8] and antispasmodic activity. [9] Quercitrin, a flavanoid glycoside, isolated from the herb showed an antidiarrheal activity. [10],[11] It is reported to have a relaxation effect on respiration. [12] The alcoholic extract of whole plant shows hypoglycemic activity in rats. [6] It has a sedative effect on the genitor-urinary tract. [4]

  Chemical Constituents Top

E. hirta has been studied by various workers and a number of active constituents have been isolated. Afzelin (I), quercitrin (II), and myricitrin (III) have been isolated from the methanolic extract of E. hirta. [13] The chemical investigation of E. hirta has led to the isolation of rutin (IV), quercitin (V), euphorbin-A (VI), euphorbin-B (VII), euphorbin-C (VIII), euphorbin-D (IX), 2, 4, 6-tri-O-galloyl-β-d-glucose, 1, 3, 4, 6-tetra-O-galloyl-β-d-glucose, kaempferol, gallic acid, and protocatechuic acid. [14],[15] E. hirta also contains β-amyrin, 24-methylenecycloartenol, β-sitosterol, heptacosane, nnonacosane, [1] shikmic acid, tinyatoxin, choline, camphol, and quercitol derivatives containing rhamnose and chtolphenolic acid [Figure 1]. [6]

  Pharmacological Activities Top

Antibacterial activity

The ethanolic extract of E. hirta inhibited the growth of the  Escherichia More Details coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Bacillus subtili[16] and aqueous and chloroform leaf extracts of E. hirta possess an antibacterial activity against Klebsiella pneumonia. The extract is noncytotoxic and antibacterial. [17]

Antimalarial activity

The bioassay-guided fractionation of the methanolic extract of aerial parts of E. hirta, monitored against P. falciparum parasites, yielded a main active chromatographic fraction showing 90% growth inhibition of P. falciparum at a concentration of 5 ΅g/ml. [13]

Anti-inflammatory activity

The n-hexane extract of aerial parts of E. hirta showed anti-inflammatory effects in the model of phorbol acetate-induced ear inflammation in mice. It exhibited a dose-dependent effect. [18],[19]

Galactogenic activity

The powdered E. hirta showed a galactogenic activity in guinea pigs before puberty by increasing the development of the mammary glands and induction of secretion. [20]

Antiasthmatic activity

E. hirta is reported to have an antiasthmatic activity due to the relaxation effect on the bronchial tubes and a depressant action on respiration. [12]

Effect on urine output and electrolytes

Ethanolic and aqueous leaf extracts of E. hirta significantly induced diuresis in rats. The diuretic effect of the ethanol extract was significant at 6 h (for 100 mg/kg) and at 24 h (for 50 mg/kg). The water extract induced a significant increase in urine Na + , K + and HCO 3- loss. The ethanol extract (100 mg/ml) caused a significant decrease in the K + loss whereas the water extract increased its excretion. The HCO 3- urine output following the injection of both extracts was tremendously enhanced. [21]

Antidiarrheal activity

The antidiarrheal effect of the herb decoction was studied in mice. It demonstrated an activity in models of diarrhea induced by castor oil, arachidonic acid, and prostaglandin E 2 . [10] Quercitrin, a flavanoid glycoside isolated from E. hirta, showed an antidiarrheal activity, at a dose of 50 mg/kg, against castor oil and prostaglandin E2 -induced diarrhea in mice. [11]

Antioxidant activity

The aqueous extract of E. hirta L. showed an antioxidant effect and a free radical scavenging activity in various in vitro models like total antioxidant and total ferric reducing power determination, assay for free radical-scavenging activity using ABTS, DPPH, and hydroxyl radical scavenging assays. It showed maximum antioxidants and free radical scavenging activities, at 0.25 mg/ml. The free radical scavenging effect on DPPH and hydroxyl was found as 68.80 ± 5.21 and 73.36 ± 5.21%, respectively. [22]

Antifertility activity

E. hirta at a dose of 50 mg/kg reduced the sperm motility and density of cauda epididymal and testis sperm suspension significantly, leading to 100% infertility. [23]

Antiamoebic activity

The polyphenolic extract of E. hirta inhibited the growth of Entamoeba histolytica with a minimum active concentration of less than 10 ΅g/ml. [8]

Antifungal activity

An ethanolic extract of E. hirta showed an antifungal activity against plant pathogens Colletotrichum capsici, Fusarium pallidoroseum, Botryodiplodia theobromae, Phomopsis caricae-papayae, and Aspergillus niger using the paper disc diffusion technique. [24]

  Summary Top

In the present review, we have made an attempt to provide the mophological, phytochemical, ethnopharmacological, and pharmacological information on E. hirta, a herb used traditionally for medicinal purposes. The literature survey revealed that E. hirta contains afzelin, quercitrin, myricitrin, rutin, gallic acid, quercitin, euphorbin-A and ephorbin-B, euphorbin-C, euphorbin-D, β-amyrin, 24-methylenecycloartenol, β-sitosterol, heptacosane, n-nonacosane, [14],[15] shikmic acid, tinyatoxin, choline, camphol, and quercitol derivatives containing rhamnose, and chtolphenolic acid. [6]

This herb shows antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antimalarial, galactogenic, antiasthmatic, antidiarrheal, anticancer, antioxidant, antiferlity, antiamoebic, and antifungal activities. Further research is going on to find out more activities in constituents of E. hirta.

There are many other traditional uses of E. hirta in Ayurveda which serves as the basis for further studies. This review will definitely help the researchers to know its different properties.

  References Top

1.Williamson EM. Major Herbs of Ayurveda. China: Churchill Livingstone; 2002.   Back to cited text no. 1      
2.Prajapati ND, Purohit SS, Sharma AK, Kumar T. Handbook of Medicinal Plants. Jodhpur, India: Agarbios; 2003.  Back to cited text no. 2      
3.The Wealth of India (Raw material), Vol 3. New Delhi: Council of Industrial and Scientific Research; 2005.  Back to cited text no. 3      
4.Kirtikar KR, Basu BD. Indian medicinal plants with illustrations. Dehradun, India: Oriental Enterprises; 2003.  Back to cited text no. 4      
5.Nadkarni KM. Indian Materia Medica, 4th Vol., Bombay, India: Popular prakashan; 1976.   Back to cited text no. 5      
6.Sood SK, Bhardwaj R, Lakhanpal TN. Ethnic Indian Plants in cure of diabetes. India: Scientific Publishers; 2005.   Back to cited text no. 6      
7.Singh P, Sinha KK. Inhibition of aflatoxin production on some agricultural commodities through aqueous plant extracts. J Indian Bot Soc 1986;65:30-2.   Back to cited text no. 7      
8.Tona L, Kambu K, Ngimbi N, Mesia K, Penge O, Lusakibanza M, et al. Antiamoebic and spasmolytic activities of extracts from some Antidiarrhoeal traditional preparations used in Kinshasa and Congo. Phytomedicine 2000;7:31-8.   Back to cited text no. 8      
9.Gnecco S, Perez C, Bittner M, Silva YM. Distribution pattern of n-alkanes in Chilean species from the Euphorbiaceae family. Bol Soc Chil Quim1996;41:229-33.   Back to cited text no. 9      
10.Galvez J, Zarzuelo A, Crespo ME, Lorente MD, Ocete MA, Jimenez J. Antidiarrheal activity of Euphorbia hirta extract and isolation of an active flavanoid constituent. Planta Med 1993;59:333-36.   Back to cited text no. 10      
11.Galvez J, Crespo ME, Jimenez J, Suarez A, Zarzuelo A. Antidiarrheic activity of quercitrin in mice and rats. J Pharm Pharmacol 1993;45:157.   Back to cited text no. 11      
12.Chopra RN, Chopra IC, Handa KL, Kapur LD. Indigenous drugs of India. Calcutta, India: Academic Publishers; 1994.  Back to cited text no. 12      
13.Liu Y, Murakami N, Ji H, Abreu Pedro, Zhang S. Antimalarial flavonol glycosides from Euphorbia hirta. Pharm Biol 2007;45:278-81.   Back to cited text no. 13      
14.Rastogi RP, Mehrotra BN. Compendium of Indian Medicinal Plants, 3rd Vol., Lucknow, India: Central Drug Research Institute; 2002.  Back to cited text no. 14      
15.Rastogi RP, Mehrotra BN. Compendium of Indian Medicinal Plants, 4th Vol., Lucknow, India: Central Drug Research Institute; 2002.  Back to cited text no. 15      
16.Ogbulie JN, Ogueke CC, Okoli IC, Anyanwu BN. Antibacterial activities and toxicological potentials of crude ethanolic extracts of Euphorbia hirta. Afr J Biotechnol 2007;6:1544-8.  Back to cited text no. 16      
17.Suresh K, Deepa P, Harisaranraj R, Vaira Achudhan V. Antimicrobial and phytochemical investigation of the leaves of Carica papaya L., Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers., Euphorbia hirta L., Melia azedarach L. and Psidium guajava L. Ethnobotanical Leaflets 2008;12:1184-9.   Back to cited text no. 17      
18.Martinez V, Mariano A, Teresa OR, Lazcano ME, Bye R. Anti-inflammatory active compounds from the n-hexane extract of Euphorbia hirta. Rev Soc Quim Mιx 1999;43:103-5.   Back to cited text no. 18      
19.Lanhers MC, Fleurentin J, Dorfman P, Mortier F, Pelt JM. Analgesic, antipyretic and antiinflammatory properties of Euphorbia hirta. Planta Med 1991;57:225-31.  Back to cited text no. 19      
20.Blanc P, Bertrand P, de Saqui-Sannes G, Lescure R. Galactogenic properties of plants of the African flora: Sersalisia djalonensis and Euphorbia hirta. Ann Biol Clin (Paris) 1963;21:829.   Back to cited text no. 20      
21.Johnson PB, Abdurahman EM, Tiam EA, Abdu-Aguye I, Hussaini IM. Euphorbia hirta leaf extracts increase urine output and electrolytes in rats. J Ethnopharmacol 1999;65:63-9.   Back to cited text no. 21      
22.Sharma NK, Dey S, Prasad R. In vitro antioxidant potential evaluation of Euphorbia hirta L. Pharmacologyonline 2007;1:91-8.   Back to cited text no. 22      
23.Mathur A, Dixit VP, Dobal MP. Antifertility plant product: Euphorbia hirta in males. Proceedings of the International Symposium on Male Contraception: Present and Future; 1995.  Back to cited text no. 23      
24.Mohamed S, Saka S, EL-Sharkawy SH, Ali AM, Muid S. Antimycotic screening of 58 Malaysian plants against plant pathogens. Pestic Sci 1996;47:259-64.  Back to cited text no. 24      


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